The NYC-ARTS community is full of talent and we want to share it. Every Friday we showcase one fan's artwork on our Facebook wall and Fan Art Gallery. Each month, we select three pieces to compete to be our "Featured Fan Art of the Month." NYC-ARTS fans vote for the winner and we put the winning piece and artist in the spotlight. April's featured artist is Paula Layton, a street photographer whose black-and-white snapshots tell a narrative of the diverse and lively city that is New York.
Tell me a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what was your upbringing like?
As a very young child, my family lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, before it was fashionable. We had a garden apartment with an eat-in kitchen, which is probably worth over $1 million now. Then we moved to Valley Stream, Long Island, where I grew up. Art was always my passion.
So you always knew you wanted to be an artist?
We went to museums in the city often and I spent a lot of time drawing and painting and dreaming of a life as an artist. It wasn't until I got married in 1970 that I developed a taste for form. I became an apprentice potter at Montague Pottery in Brooklyn Heights where we had an apartment. Before long I was making and selling my pots at street fairs and began teaching pottery lessons.
Did you go to art school?
I studied at Hofstra University - glaze chemistry, pottery and such.
How did you first get into photography?
It was my husband who introduced me to photography. He gave me a small Sony film camera to take on our trip to Mexico. The sights, colors and colonial architecture were all wonderful, but I found that I was more interested in the people. The daily life was what I wanted to document, so what began as travel photography turned into street photography. When we traveled to other countries, the same happened. In Paris, I was more interested in the little boy playing the accordion in front of the Eiffel Tower than the structure itself.
What is your goal in photography?
To capture interesting stories, frozen in time. Or as I like to call them...stolen moments.
Have you had any memorable or awkward experiences while shooting strangers?
I had an awkward moment once on Fifth Avenue when a woman asked if I'd taken her picture. I replied that I did and she promptly asked me to delete it. I kept it anyway, because we were in public and it was totally legal.
What did that woman look like?
She was very wrinkled. I liked the lines in her face.
Do you have any personal tricks for doing street photography and maybe avoiding situations like that?
I find that I get better photos if the subjects don't interact with me. I use a zoom lens, and I never ask permission to take a photo.
What's your go-to camera?
I am using a Canon D60 right now. I also have a Canon D1000.
Who are some photographers that you look up to?
Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Stieglitz, and more recently, Vivian Maier.
Any photo exhibitions in New York right now that excite you?
I saw the street photography exhibit at the Met recently. Some of the finest street photographers were included, but it was not as large or in depth as I had hoped.